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Regimental Museum and Archives - Virtual Tour Page 4 (Calgary Highlanders in the Second World War)

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The next portion of the gallery is a variety of photos and a copy of the famous communication which arrived at Mewata Armouries on 1 September 1939, the same day that Hitler invaded Poland.  Canada was not yet at war, yet the Commanding Officer of the Calgary Highlanders received this terse message from Ottawa:

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The Second World War gallery commemorates several key actions by the Calgary Highlanders during the fighting in Northwest Europe.

Albert Canal

In September 1944, to help clear the port of Antwerp in Belgium, the Calgary Highlanders were ordered to cross the heavily defended Albert Canal and establish a bridgehead. The plan called for a small patrol from "C" Company to cross over a lock gate on the canal and secure a bridgehead. Two more Companies would follow and the engineers could start construction of a bridge.

Sergeant Clarence Crockett led the patrol of eight volunteers in the early hours of September 22. Carrying only weapons and ammunition, the patrol moved across a demolished footbridge to an island in the centre of the canal. They moved silently to the edge of the 90 foot-wide lock gate and began to carefully walk along the top, only to discover that the last eight feet had been destroyed. The only connection to the shore was a six-inch pipe with a taught cable stretched across it. Sergeant Crockett and Corporal Roy Harold edged across the pipe and managed to reach the enemy shore, enabling the remainder of the patrol to safely reach the bank. The Germans had been alerted and immediately opened fire with two machine guns and flares, wounding the last member of the patrol and preventing the remainder of the regiment from crossing.
 

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Sergeant Crockett organized the various weapons of the patrol and set up a routine of continuous fire, persuading the enemy that a much larger force had actually crossed the canal. Much later, after re-establishing radio contact with the Battalion, "C" Company crossed the canal to join the patrol and was advised that the bridgehead had been taken.

The following day, the Highlanders expanded their bridgehead and, led by Major Bruce McKenzie, repulsed several enemy counter-attacks. By evening, the engineers had completed the bridge and joined in the fight. The Germans attacked again that night, but by morning the regiment had been reinforced by the Regiment de Maisonneuve and the bridgehead was secured.

Sergeant Crockett was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his leadership and exemplary courage during the crossing of the Albert Canal. Major McKenzie was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for conducting the spirited defence of the bridgehead.

A full size diorama depicting Crockett and Harold greets the visitor to this gallery. Opposite this diorama is a 1:35 scale depiction of the Walcheren Causeway.

Walcheren Causeway

The penetration of Allied forces into North West Europe in 1944 created a need to establish a shorter supply route to alleviate the existing logistical strain exerted on the Brest and Normandy beachheads. Antwerp, with its large docking facilities and proximity to the battlefront, was the logical choice.

The key to utilizing Antwerp was the control of Walcheren Island and the Breskens area: whoever occupied these areas effectively controlled the Scheldt Estuary shipping lane into Antwerp.

The capture of Antwerp in late September 1944 still did not enable the Allies to use the port facility, as the German army controlled Walcheren Island and the Breskens area. The only way Walcheren Island could be approached by land was by using the Walcheren Causeway, linking the island to the South Beveland Peninsula.

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The 2nd Canadian Division was tasked with the job of securing Walcheren Causeway. On October 31 the 5 Brigades, which consisted of the Calgary Highlanders, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, le Regiment de Maisonneuve, and the Fifth Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, attacked and successfully created a bridgehead across the causeway.

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Other displays in the Second World War gallery include a life-size diorama incorporating a surviving example of a three-inch mortar.  These weapons were used to great effect as the battalion's organic artillery.  Six tubes made up the Mortar Platoon, which belonged to Support Company.  These mortars rode into action in Universal Carriers and could be set up quickly in mortar pits, or as in this diorama, behind a wall or other hard cover.

Also included in the gallery is a mural depicting the battalion at the end of the war, as it appeared on the return home to Canada.

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